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Our Defense, And How We Can Effectively Use Kamerion Wimbley

Yes, you did read that correctly.  No, I did not make a typo.  I believe we can use Wimbley effectively and get him back to playing at a respectable level for a first round pick.

First, a few things about the 3-4 defense and what we aim to do with it.  To rush the passer and probably more directly to stop the run, defenses talk of the offensive line in terms of "gaps".  These are simply the spaces between offensive linemen.  Gaps are lettered (starting with A) from the Center's left and right continuing outward.

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In a "one gap" system, defenders are each assigned a gap, and they are responsible for runners running through that gap.  If you are given the A gap to the Center's left, you need to "shoot" that "A gap" immediately after the snap of the ball, tackle any RB coming through it, or use that gap en route to the QB.  Simple, right?

Now, where a defender is going is not the same as where a defender lines up.  For various reasons (some which I will discuss later), defenders won't always line up directly in front of the gap to which they are assigned.  The lateral area where a defensive lineman lines up is called a "technique".  Techniques are numbered, starting with the "zero technique" where a DT lines up with his nose directly over a Center's nose.

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Note that the numbers refer to where the nose/physical center of the defensive player would be.  The mystified "three technique" DT would therefore be a DT who lines up with his nose on the outside shoulder of the OG.  These Glenn Dorsey-types of guys typically are disruptive, penetrating types of players who shoot the A, B, or C gaps and can get to RBs before they hit the line of scrimmage, as well as sack the QB.

So how does our defense work?  As opposed to traditional 4-3 systems, and some 3-4 systems (such as the one San Diego ran when it's defense was top notch), we do not assign our defensive linemen gaps to shoot.  Our 3-4 relies upon defensive linemen to "two gap", or draw double teams.  This is why we need absolutely huge guys like Shaun Rogers, and why all of our DL is well over 300 lbs.  Two gapping typically involves rushing directly at an offensive lineman, engaging him/pushing him straight back, and then being able to tackle a runner coming to either side of him.

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Rogers is usually at a 0 or 1 technique, right on the C, and our DEs are typically at the 4, "4.5"(right over the OT), or 5 technique.  Here, if the RG and LG choose to help blocking the DL, the ILBs can flow to the ball carrier unblocked, and stop him for a short gain.  If the OGs choose to leave the line alone and block the ILBs, EVERY gap on the OL should be filled by the line: we allow the offense to pick it's poison.

So, if the offense is passing the ball, and everyone does their job, any LB we choose to send should be free to get to the QB.  That rarely ever happens.  Not only can offenses go to 3- or 5-step drops to get the ball out quickly, but we often send the same LB who makes the same move every time.  Usually, if we send more than 3 rushers, it looks like this:

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The offense slides the protection one way, double teaming Rogers (because if you block him 1 on 1, you lose).  How many times have you seen Kamerion Wimbley try to run to the QB, while the LT just pushes him out of the way?  This "sliding" of protection typically works because it takes Rogers 2-3 seconds to get through the double-team, Wimbley gets neutralized, and our DEs can't beat an OT one on one.  By the time anyone gets off their block, it takes a good 3+ seconds to get to the QB because offenses often keep at least 1 of the TE, FB, or RB in to pass block adding a second line of defense in pass pro.  4 seconds is too long to ask any secondary to cover.

Part of what I am proposing will never happen because Romeo, for whatever reason (lack of experience/talent in the secondary, lack of decent LBs, philosophical differences, lack of intelligence on defense, etc) refuses to put in a lot of complex things for our defense.  He also doesn't like to one-gap a whole lot from what I can tell.

Regardless, I propose we take Wimbley and move him over to the LOLB position for a play or two every game.  Then, we have our RDE line up at the 4 technique inside the LT, and Rogers shifts to the 1 technique on the C's left.  The LDE lines up at the 4.5 technique as normal. 

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Another thing that is different here is walking the ROLB, ILB, and FS up closer to the line of scrimmage.  Having this many guys so close to the line is called having "8 in the box", but more importantly for us here, we are "showing" blitz.  Based on what a QB would be seeing right now, he would have to account for a blitz, particularly from the (defense's) right side, where we have the possibility of sending 6 players.  The NT, RDE, ROLB, both ILBs, and the FS could all blitz on the right side of the formation.

Because we are threatening to blitz from the (defense's) right, the offense must again shift it's pass protection to that side (see the diagram above).  The QB will also probably be thinking of a short route he can throw to in case we send all 6 blitzers and one or more of them is left unblocked.  We don't send blitzers from that side at all:

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Instead, the FS, ROLB, and ILBs all drop in to shorter zones.  The SS and the CBs are all in deep zone, putting us in a Cover-3.  After watching the Denver game, I can say with confidence we like playing cover 3/cover 1.  On to the line: the RDE shoots the B-gap between the LT and LG.  Rogers shoots the A gap between the C and RG.  He gives the RG a choice: block me, or leave me 1 on 1 with the C, which will result in me sacking the QB.  The LDE engages the RT, and tries to move him as far away from the RG as possible.

Wimbley, who is the LOLB here, is the last person blitzing.  We all know Wimbley is anatomically imbalanced and can only run quickly while curving to his left.  This play is perfect for him: with the RG trying to block Rogers, and the LDE occupying the RT, Wimbley can "stunt" inside of the RT--while running in a curve to his left, mind you--and get to the QB unblocked. 

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via farm4.static.flickr.com

Whichever back blocks should be shifted to block the blitz we were showing.  The blitz never comes from that side, and if he can get a piece of Wimbley, he won't slow him down much.  We showed blitz, gave the offense the impression we were doing one thing, and then did something else.  I believe this play, combined with one where we actually DO blitz from the defensive right, would be effective.  Not only would we probably get pressure, we could probably get it while only rushing 4, and dropping 7 in to coverage.  It's not the "bend don't break" philosophy that is so frustrating about our defense, to me it is the lack of creativity.

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